The parade will begin at the usual time of 7 p.m., but because of the drainage construction in downtown Gray along West Clinton, the route has changed. This year parade entries will enter Bill Conn Jr. Parkway from the Ingles parking lot and proceed east to the intersection of Cumslo Road, turn right, and continue to the Jones County High School parking lot.
Parade coordinator Kay Buchanan said the 1.1 mile route is no longer than the previous route.
Buchanan said the number of units in the parade is kept to 65 to comply with the time frame suggested by the Georgia Department of Transportation. She said the parade is shaping up well, and the idea of a late fee for tardy entries worked great with the majority of the applications being turned in on time.
“We have a lot of new groups this year, and more than a third of the total entries are in the parade for the first time,” she said. “We’ve had big support from the school system.”
The coordinator said entry judges are from outside of Jones County, and she is convinced that organization is the key to the smooth running of the parade. Buchanan said the 65 entries equal more than 1,000 participants, and because of the closing of the state road, the parade must start and finish within an hour.
“One big question this year is the lighting because of the different route. I’m not sure how good the lighting is going to be along the connector, so we want to encourage everyone in the parade to have some kind of lighting, even if it’s just glow necklaces for the walkers,” Buchanan commented. “We want everyone to be safe.”
Buchanan said fund raising is not the reason the parade is held but the Jaycees want to use the money received wisely.
“We take out expenses and give a percent to the Shriners, and the rest is donated for holiday assistance. We buy trophies for the winning entries and gifts for judges and the grand marshal, but there are a lot of things we don’t have to buy every year,” she explained. “We have more money because we have more paying entries.”
One of the keys to a successful parade, according to the coordinator, is the organizational meeting held a week before the event.
“It answers a lot of questions and one representative from each entry is required to attend. Failure to attend the meeting disqualifies the entry with no refund,” Buchanan stated.
Another successful idea last year was a drop-off lane for parade participants. Buchanan said the lane will be used again this year so participants can be dropped off in Ingles parking lot before the parade to ease parking congestion.
She said parking for Ingles customers will be in a marked area to avoid as much inconvenience as possible to the business.
“Store manager Joe Partenza has been wonderful to work with,” Buchanan said.
She said the floats and other entries may come back to the Ingles Parking lot but they will have to wait until after the parade is over.
“There is plenty of parking at Jones County High School and we suggest participants are picked up there,” she added.
Buchanan said Aubrey Newby was an obvious choice for grand marshal of the parade because of his hard work for the Bicentennial for the entire year.
Newby grand marshal
Newby is a native Jones Countian. He is married to wife Jennifer and the couple has two children, Addison and Grady. Newby grew up in the Turnerwoods subdivision and lived in Gray until his family moved to Haddock during his senior year at JCHS.
He attended the University of Georgia, majoring in history, which has always been his passion. He worked in the restaurant business for several years while attending college and is well known as the owner and manager of the former Big Sky restaurant in Gray. Newby is currently working for a real estate company in Macon.
The grand marshal recalled that the History and Heritage organization took on the responsibility of Jones County’s Bicentennial celebration and chose him as chairman of the bicentennial committee in 2002. He said the committee had the idea to celebrate over the entire year beginning with the 2006 Christmas parade and ending within December 2007.
The bicentennial theme was subsequently incorporated into most of the county’s established events such as the parade and the Daylily Festival.
The official kickoff for the bicentennial celebration took place March 17 with the re-creation of a visit of Revolutionary War hero, the Marquis de Lafayette and a parade from Clinton to Gray. The day continued with the dedication of a marker in honor of Jacob P. Hutchings that was placed on the courthouse grounds.
Forty banners were posted all over the county proclaiming Jones County’s Bicentennial.
“We kicked into gear in full a year and a half ago,” Newby said. “I have a great committee; I certainly don’t do it alone.”
He said overall the bicentennial has been what he hoped, although it is natural to be a Monday-morning quarterback with thoughts of what could have been done better.
“I think we have done well and have had a good response from the community,” Newby said. “When Kay approached me, I was caught off guard. I am honored, but I don’t feel worthy.”
Newby wrote a series of history articles for The Jones County News in 2002 and has been the coordinator for a series of Bicentennial articles that have appeared in the newspaper throughout the year.
“This year has been a lot of fun. In my opinion the most successful things we have done are those that will be enjoyed for years to come such as the Jacob Hutchings marker, the dedication of the bell that hung in the courthouse for more than 100 years, and the burying of the time capsule next month,” he commented.
Newby said during his research he has found nothing that occurred to mark the anniversary of the county’s first 100 years in 1907, but he knew this year would not be like the celebration in 1957.
“We are just in a different place as a community,” he noted.
Newby said he always loved history. He plans to remain involved as a member of the History and Heritage organization, and he is also a member of the Jones County Preservation Commission.
“I didn’t realize the amount of work that would be involved this year, but I am glad I did it,” he remarked. “It’s about giving back to where you live and your home.”